The wonders of unspoiled ‘Old’ Florida

12/22/2013 8:01 AM

12/22/2013 8:01 AM

Q: I’d like to take a quick trip with the family down to the Gulf side of Florida in early January. Any ideas for a specific location or resort? I hear a lot about “Old” Florida – would that be places like Cedar Key or Longboat Key?

A: When I think of “Old” Florida on the Gulf coast, I think of a place like Sanibel Island or Captiva Island. On parts of the islands, you don’t find a lot of development, and the beaches are pretty amazing.

– Christopher Elliott

Q: I’m planning a two-week trip through eastern Europe (Prague, Vienna, Budapest and Munich) and Johannesburg. We can leave anytime between March and June. Is there a best time to travel?

A: Late April to early May is a lovely time of year, in eastern Europe, anyway. In Johannesburg, you’d be in late fall around then, so it should still be nice there as well.

– Zofia Smardz

Q: Last year my husband and I went to an Iberostar Grand all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean. I fell in love with the place, but he doesn’t want to spend the money to go back. I’m a bit worried about going by myself. Do you have experience or advice for being alone in paradise?

A: If you go to a quality place, you should have no problems. I’ve stayed at Iberostars, but not an Iberostar Grand. There is one in Riviera Maya near Cancun, and I’ve always felt safe in resorts in that region. As for meals, I’ve eaten alone at restaurants all over the world, and as long as I have my Kindle and a notebook, I feel quite comfortable. And people-watching is always fun.

– Carol Sottili

Q: On a recent seven-hour return flight on Alitalia from Rome to New York, our seat assignments were changed from our carefully selected seats all the way back to the second-to-last row. Do we have any rights regarding this unwelcome change? Also, the built-in viewing/control panel for my wife’s seat didn’t work. The flight crew said sorry, we’re completely full, there’s nowhere to move you. What should our response have been to this situation?

A: Unfortunately, you don’t have any rights to compensation for the botched seat assignments. Seat assignments typically aren’t guaranteed. But the airline offered a product it couldn’t deliver when your wife’s entertainment system didn’t function as advertised. A brief, polite email should get more than an apology, but I wouldn’t expect anything beyond a few miles or a flight voucher. It’s definitely worth asking, though.

– Christopher Elliott

Q: How low do airfares go for travel to Japan? Right now, it looks like $2,000 for the back row of economy for next summer. Do fares fall during certain seasons?

A: Summer fares to Japan are high right now, but that $2,000 fare is for nonstops, right? I’m seeing $1,700 for flights with connections. If you can travel in May, that connecting fare goes down to $1,400; in winter, it’s closer to $1,200.

– Carol Sottili

Q: I’m going on a business trip to the Atlantis/Bahamas, and my daughter and her boyfriend want to join us. What’s your recommendation for getting the best deal? I’ve heard that they’re generous with upgrades and wonder whether it’s best to upgrade to a suite or get a separate room?

A: Atlantis offers accommodations at many different price levels. A two-bedroom suite may very well cost more than two separate rooms. I wouldn’t plan on an automatic upgrade. Call them and see what they’ll do for you. Or, if you know the travel agency for your company, get them to help.

– Carol Sottili

Q: I’m planning a trip to Italy in July, and we can’t decide whether to fly in and out of Florence or Rome (our itinerary is the classic Venice-Florence-Rome circuit). The price difference is $10, so that’s not a factor. My main concern is, which airport is smaller/easier to navigate/easier to get in and out of from town? Which is closest or has the best connection to its city?

A: The Florence airport (Peretola) is very small, very manageable. It’s an easy and inexpensive 15-minute taxi ride into the city (you can also take a shuttle bus). I’d do Florence.

– Zofia Smardz

Q: On the return portion of an upcoming trip to Europe, I have a 22-hour layover in Amsterdam. After I go through customs and immigration, will I be able to check my bag back in with my airline for the next flight even though it doesn’t leave until the next day?

A: Yes, you should be able to do that as long as it’s all one ticket. If you booked the tickets separately, it may be problematic.

– Carol Sottili

Q: Airfares to France have been going up steadily over the past weeks. I’m going to Paris from Minneapolis-St. Paul in August. Any idea whether purchasing a ticket now is smarter than waiting?

A: Fares to Europe for next summer are through the roof. Try to figure out how many seats are left on these flights. If the flights are empty, fares will level off or go down, but if they are selling out, fares are going to keep rising.

– Carol Sottili

Q: What’s the latest on the pushback by flight attendants and passengers against allowing cellphone use on planes?

A: It’s unlikely that we’ll be able to use cellphones on a plane for a good long while. Part of the reason is technological – the planes will need to be fitted with systems that will allow you to make a call from your phone. But a bigger problem will be the resistance from flight attendants and other passengers. I don’t think we’ll see phones on planes until 2015 at the earliest, but who knows?

– Christopher Elliott

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